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Misleading stereotypes about Jainism

Yet histories and encyclopaedias of world religions with a few exceptions fail to mention Jainism as a religion. There are pervasive misconceptions about the origin of Jainism, its relation with the Brahmanic, Vedic so-called- Hinduism, about Mahavira being the founder of Jainism, about its being an offshoot of Buddhism or Hinduism or its being a reformist sect of Hinduism. There are misrepresentations galore. It is overshadowed by Hinduism and Buddhism or if noticed at all it is mentioned in passing as one of the ancient IndiaN religious movements subsidiary to Buddhism.

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Such is the context of the pervasive impact of the misleading Indian historiography from the deleterious effects of which even the most eminent historians, both right and left are not immune. As noted pertinently by the Aims of the Conference “One of the consequences of this failure is the continuing hold of misleading stereotypes of the nature of Indic religious thought and practice.” I think this has a vital bearing on the devastatingly damaging impact of the misconceived Indological and ‘Oriental’ stereotypes on the Indian ethno-religious historiography so as to necessitate a paradigmatic revaluation.

This misinterpretation of history is compounded by what the doyen of Indian Indologists , Dr.R.G. Bhandarkar noted as to how “India has no written history. Nothing was known till within recent times of the political condition of the country, the dynasties that ruled over the different provisions which composed it, and the great religious and social revolutions it went through. The historical curiosity of the people was satiated by legends. What we find of a historical nature in the literature of the country before the arrival of the Mahomedans comes to very little.” P.i-ii (Early History of the Dekkan Down to the Mahomedan Conquest, 2nd Ed. 1983)

The date of the foundation of the Maurya dynasty by Chandragupta has been determined to be about 322 B.C. on the basis of the known dates of the corresponding Greek persons or events such as the invasion of Alexander the Great which brought the Greeks in contact with India or such historical fragments as are left by Megasthenes’s Ta Indika.


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